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  • Northside East

Rough sleeper figures rising as cold snap bites

Wednesday, 29th November, 2017 8:00am

Story by Tony McCullagh
Rough sleeper figures rising as cold snap bites

PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

Rough sleeper figures rising as cold snap bites

PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

AS THE first real cold snap of the winter began to bite last week, shocking new figures were released in relation to rough sleepers in Dublin.

An official rough sleeping count showed there were 184 people on the streets of the capital on the night of November 7 and into the next morning.

In response to the growing crisis, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) announced details of the Cold Weather Strategy 2017, outlining additional new facilities and enhanced service options to meet demand for homeless emergency accommodation and to tackle rough sleeping.

In a statement, the DRHE said that the impact of severe weather can be immediately life-threatening to people who are rough sleeping and it was therefore essential to have a coordinated response in order to mitigate against the risk of exposure.

Emergency accommodation provision for adults in Dublin is being expanded by over 200 permanent bed spaces with an additional 50 temporary beds available for the winter period. 

The additional bed spaces are being distributed across seven new emergency accommodation facilities which will be operated by the executive’s partner agencies in the charity sector. 

Once a person has been assessed as homeless by the relevant Dublin local authority, they will be placed into a bed space via the Dublin Region Central Placement Service and Freephone Service. Each service will provide a light meal in the evening, breakfast and bathroom facilities. 

Arrangements are also in place with service providers so that additional temporary shelter can be brought into use across a range of existing services and facilities for singles, couples and families on a temporary basis during adverse or extreme weather conditions. A contingency emergency response is already in place for any family that may be at risk of sleeping rough at night.

Of the 184 persons discovered sleeping rough during the recent count, the DRHE found:

• 102 persons had previously accessed homeless services; 11 persons had not accessed such services; and of the remaining 71 there were insufficient details available to ascertain whether they had accessed services; 

• 80 persons were Irish nationals; 53 were non-Irish nationals; and the nationality of 51 individuals could not be identified on the night. 

• 70 per cent of persons were discovered in Dublin Inner City (North and South), and the remaining 30 per cent were found on the outskirts and in Fingal, South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire. 

• There were 3,385 adults and 2,335 children in emergency accommodation beds on the night.

Commenting on this winter’s count, a DRHE spokesperson said: “The addition of 200-plus new bed spaces, alongside the expansion of Dublin’s Housing First Service, ensures we can, and will, provide for everyone engaging in rough sleeping while allowing for additional overall capacity.”

Kerry Anthony, CEO of homeless charity Depaul, described the rough sleeper numbers as “extremely worrying”.

“In order to do valuable work in moving people on from the one night only system and sleeping rough, there needs to be a focus on assertive engagement so people on the edges of society can begin building relationships and trust with support and services,” she said. “When people come to the door of our hostels, we must do meaningful work to help them move on from homelessness.”

She added: “I want Minister Murphy to succeed and for Rebuilding Ireland to be implemented with expediency and commitment. Homelessness is a complex issue and needs a consistent, holistic approach. While these rough sleeper figures are cause for concern, it is essential that we remain committed to Rebuilding Ireland and that policy makers take heed of the recommendations of voluntary organisations like Depaul in order to make progress.” 

Focus Ireland welcomed the announcement of the Cold Weather Strategy but said the rough sleeper figures showed that the crisis was deepening even further and must act as a reality check for the Government. 

Mike Allen, Focus Ireland’s Director of Advocacy, said: "These extra beds will be welcomed by people who would otherwise be forced to sleep on the streets. However, it once again shows that the Government is constantly reacting to the problem rather than taking more immediate action to solve it. 

“The response we really need - an adequate supply of affordable housing - is coming so far down the track that it is hard to see when it will ever arise.”

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here